U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is once again taking on the higher education “cartel” as he brought back his proposal to reform accreditation on Monday. Currently only schools accredited by organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible for financial aid.
Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Col., to bring back their proposal to create
“an alternative system of accreditation for high-quality American colleges, universities, and other higher education providers so their students can access federal financial aid.” Rubio and Bennet first brought out the “Higher Education Innovation Act” in 2015 but the bill failed to cross the finish line.
In recent years, Rubio has called for accreditation reform, taking aim at the current system as inefficient and too focused on input process and not concerned about results. He’s even branded the current system as a “cartel,” more focused on keeping its current status and limiting innovation and competition.
Rubio returned to that theme on Monday.
"America needs a 21st century higher education system that embraces all the new ways people can learn and acquire skills without having to go the traditional four-year college degree track," said Rubio. "To modernize our higher education system, we must end the status quo accreditation system, which stifles competition, fuels soaring tuition costs, and limits opportunities for nontraditional students, such as working parents. The alternative accreditation system we've proposed is built on higher quality standards and outcomes than the current accreditation system, and would mark an important first step toward shaking up a higher education system that leaves too many people with tons of student loan debt and without degrees that lead to good paying jobs."
“In order for our kids and grandkids to succeed in the 21st century economy, they need access to higher education,” said Bennet. “Our generation is at risk of becoming the first American generation to leave less opportunity to our children than we inherited. It’s time we shed old ways of thinking, and build a modernized education system that embraces different approaches and focuses on innovation and student success, rather than inputs and process. This bill is an important first step to change some of the broken incentive structures in higher education, and create an outcomes-based process for schools and students.”
According to Rubio’s office, the bill puts in place a pilot program for five years setting up an “alternative, outcomes-based process to access federal student financial aid” which will give students the “ability to use federal student aid funds to attend institutions that offer high-quality, innovative, and effective programs and have a proven track record of successful student outcomes.” The proposal also lets new higher education programs apply for financial aid and to enter into contracts with the federal Education Department.